Private education is affordable: van der Merwe


“There’s different companies offering different products. For instance, in Curro Holdings we’ve got four brands. The one that’s very popular is the low-fee brand, which is the ‘meridian’ brand and they offer solid education for a flat rate of 1,300 rand per month and that’s from Grade 1 through to Grade 12 – some of the brands are indeed affordable,” Curro Holdings chief executive, Chris van der Merwe, told CNBC Africa.

“It seems to me that if you can pitch at about 1,300 [rand] to 1,500 [rand] per month, parents are willing to pay that for a quality product. They focus on this urge to provide their children with top quality education at classroom level.”

The Independent Examinations Board (IEB), an independent, South African assessment body, reported that 98.6 per cent Grade 12 students passed their matric exams, with 85 per cent of matrics qualifying for degree study.


Curro, a well-established provider of private education, saw its ‘meridian’ school brand achieve a 98.5 per cent pass rate and 60 per cent university exemption while its flagship schools achieved a 100 per cent pass rate.

“In terms of the private sector – great results. Curro Holdings posted a 100 per cent pass rate amongst its IEB students, 79 per cent of them may go to university for Bachelor Degree studies and more than 66 per cent obtained more than 60 per cent,” van der Merwe said.

Public education also saw an increase in its pass rate percentage from 73.9 per cent in 2012 to 78.2 per cent in 2013.

“We’ve got to understand South African education today. The state came a long way in terms of their attempts to improve pass rates. We tend to forget that 20, 30 years ago, the teacher versus pupils [ratio] was approximately one to 70. Currently it’s about one to 40 so that’s an improvement. There’s reason to believe that the general quality of performance amongst our matriculants is getting better every year,” van der Merwe explained.

While a high university exemption rate has reinforced Curro’s private education brand, van der Merwe also restated the brand’s commitment to growth.

“We can declare that we’ve got 32 schools in our group. A year ago we had 26 so we constructed five new schools in 2013. With our listing in 2009, the vision was 40 schools by 2020. At the end of this year, we’ve got a strong chance [of] reaching 40 schools already – that’s a couple of years before 2020. So we changed the vision, now we’re going to be 80 schools at 2020,” he said.

“Everything is on its way. We’ve got enough opportunities and we can confidently say that we’re going to develop approximately five to 10 schools per annum to reach our 2020 vision.”